Fewer experiences in life feel more agonizing and discouraging than a bad breakup. It might seem like your entire world has been flipped upside-down. It can feel like absolute despair, and you might worry that things will never feel better.
Even if it feels like you’re at a relationship rock bottom, healing is possible. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you’re recovering from a brutal breakup.
Accept your feelings
Practice opposite actions
Prioritize your relationship with yourself
Lean on your support
Hide the reminders
Mind the rebound
Cut social media ties
Limit or avoid ongoing contact
Seek professional support
Breakups often represent a form of ambiguous loss where you grieve without closure. You’re grieving for what you lost — and, in a sense, for what will now never happen. Along with this loss, you might feel varying degrees of sadness, betrayal, fear, anger, and loneliness. These feelings are normal, but they can be intense and overwhelming.
It’s important to be patient and give yourself permission to experience these feelings. Try to feel them fully. Consider writing them down or expressing them to someone else: the more you can discharge these emotions, the less powerful the feelings become over time.
Grief doesn’t follow an exact timeline, and many people experience weeks or months where things feel worse before they feel better. But it’s important to trust your healing process. Time does smooth out some of the rougher edges, so it’s helpful to remind yourself to be patient.
You may want to cry into a pint of ice cream or a bottle of wine after a breakup. You might also want to text your ex in the middle of the night, sleep with strangers, or badmouth your relationship all over social media.
These urges are undoubtedly self-destructive, but they are common after a breakup. Instead of acting on them, try to force yourself into embracing the therapeutic concept of opposite actions.
Opposite actions rely on you intentionally doing the opposite of your urges. Some examples of what this might look like are listed below.
- If you want to sleep all day, discipline yourself to wake up and get dressed.
- If you want to withdraw and avoid your friends, reach out and ask them to have lunch with you.
- If you want to devour an entire box of cookies, make yourself a warm cup of tea.
You may not get this skill down perfectly (and perfect isn’t the goal), but limiting or avoiding damaging behaviors can help you heal faster.
When bad things happen, we want to analyze what’s wrong with us. After a breakup, you might scrutinize your personality or physical appearance. You may also assume you carry full responsibility for what happened.
But this critical analysis can wreck your self-esteem. Relationships are two-way dynamics, and you both played a part in its demise.
Now, more than ever, it’s important to focus on valuing yourself and practicing self-compassion. Embrace the concept of self-care, and carve out time to engage in hobbies or activities that genuinely feel good to you.
Your loved ones can provide guidance, validation, and camaraderie during this vulnerable time. Even if you feel ashamed or anxious, try to reach out to the people who care about you.
You may need to make amends to some people after a breakup. That’s because we often drift away from certain friends once in a new relationship. If this happened to you, offer a genuine apology and take responsibility for your mistake. You can start by saying, I realize that I fell out of touch with you while I was dating ___. I truly regret doing so, and I hope we can reconnect again.
Whether it’s jewelry they gave you or a piece of art you two bought together on vacation, your home may be full of reminders of your relationship. This is especially true for couples in long-term relationships.
You might not want to discard all these items right away. That’s okay. However, you might consider stashing them in a box and putting them out of sight. Or you can ask a trusted friend to hold onto the belongings for you.
It’s tempting to want to move on from your relationship as quickly as possible. But impulsivity comes with high consequences, and rebound relationships can backfire. Even perusing dating apps (including those for specific groups, ages, and like-minded people) can be riskier when you’re recovering.
While there isn’t a perfect time to start dating again, ideally, you want to meet the following milestones first:
- You no longer want to get back with your ex.
- You can imagine a future without them.
- You have insight into how you want to improve in future relationships.
If you still aren’t sure you’re ready, consider waiting another month. There’s no rush to meet someone new; jumping headfirst into dating can cause confusion and even more heartache.
It wasn’t all that long ago that you needed to physically see your ex or call them directly to interact. Today, tracking someone’s whereabouts or general life updates is easier than ever.
Checking in on them constantly can stunt your healing process. In most cases, there is no justifiable reason to remain connected online. It’s important to unfriend, unfollow, and block them to move on.
If you struggle with this suggestion, consider taking a social media break altogether. Commit to avoiding your preferred platforms for a designated time, delete the apps, and enlist a friend to hold you accountable.
Unless it’s absolutely necessary (such as in cases of co-parenting or legal issues associated with divorce), try to limit any communication with your ex. These interactions can get confusing, and you risk falling into a messy friends-with-benefits dynamic if you don’t set clear boundaries.
If your ex keeps reaching out to you, have a frank discussion about your boundaries. Let them know you will no longer be answering their calls or texts. Consider blocking their number if they don’t respect your rules. As much as it hurts, there’s likely a reason your relationship didn’t make it.
- Feel suicidal or continue thinking that life feels meaningless
- Can’t stop engaging in self-destructive behaviors
- Need support for co-parenting with your ex
- Want to emotionally prepare yourself to start dating again
Therapy can be either short-term or long-term, depending on your specific treatment goals. Consider meeting with someone who specializes in relationship issues and has experience supporting clients through breakups or divorces.
Getting over a bad breakup can feel impossible at first. But time, support, and proactive self-care will help you heal and recover.